Interview with General Noriega by Julio Yao
In 1989 I became aware of a “Secret-Sensitive” document from the US National Security Council that summarized the objective of eliminating Manuel Antonio Noriega: repealing the Canal Treaties; ensure control of the Canal beyond 2000; cancel contacts with Japan for alternatives to the Canal and cut off its rise to world power.
The United States did not support the coup of Moisés Giroldi because he preferred to eliminate the Panama Defense Force, condemning it to failure.
The rejection of Japan went back to the Monroe Doctrine (1823); Rutherford Hayes’s Politics of the Canal (1880); to the 1903 Treaty and a whimsical interpretation of the Neutrality Treaty.
Contacts with Japan were initiated by Torrijos, but deepened by Noriega, since both aspired to counterbalance the influence of the United States.
According to John Perkins: ‘When Carter was fired; when he lost the election and Reagan entered with Shultz as Secretary of State — who came from Bechtel — and Weinberger — who also came from Bechtel — as Secretary of Defense, they were very angry with Torrijos. ‘
‘They tried to convince him to renegotiate the Canal Treaty and not talk to the Japanese. He flatly refused … Then he died in the fall of a burning plane, connected to a tape recorder with explosives inside … There is no doubt that it was organized by the CIA, and many American investigators reached the same conclusion. ‘ (Interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now !, US National Public Radio, November 9, 2004).
In 1993, I sent General Noriega to his cell in Miami the following questionnaire, the answers to which I received on May 17.
JY: After the signing of the treaties, Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska and the Japanese became interested in a new Canal. How did those relations with Japan continue?
MAN: Japan made commitments for the studies of the future Canal, looking for suitable options, which began with the visit of the president of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce, Shigeo Nagano. This Chamber of Commerce is a kind of Strategic Economic Council. Although Nagano died, the interest continued and they, since 1984, began the relationship by sending economic increases in different areas of Panama, in studies, investments and loans.
JY: What were Japan’s central interests and goals?
MAN: They attended the meetings and presented themselves with a job option in the Ensanche de Corte Culebra, the highest priority at that time. There was a peak of relations with Japan in which they saw the importance of the Pacific in relation to the Atlantic and the need to expand the Canal by the year 2000, so that newly built ships could pass.
JY: What was the US attitude towards Japan’s interest?
MAN: The Americans always viewed the Japanese presence with little acceptance. There were always some misgivings, but due to the importance and dedication of Manuel Antonio Noriega, the Japanese took great confidence in that plan and considered themselves partners. The Americans continued to obstruct the tripartite projects and meetings.
JY: What was the US willing to accept from Japan?
MAN: The US never agreed that even the control options would be left to the Japanese after the year 2000. Of course, we refer to SAFETY matters, placing only their presence in the capital contribution. and the technological part.
JY: Was there pressure from the US to Japan and Panama?
MAN: The matter reached a point of coincidence from 1985 onwards, in which diplomatic pressure was applied to Panama and also to the Japanese in order for them to diminish their interest and commitment. This is how they made it known to me in December 1986, when I attended Tokyo at the invitation of the Chamber of Commerce. I was told that they were under a lot of pressure and that for this they would suspend a number of original projects.
JY: What was Japan’s reaction to American pressure?
MAN: They asked me that until the US fixed their situation with Panama, they had to be very cautious, because they had priority commitments with the US, after the Postwar period (historical commitment). In other words, there was blackmail from the US towards Japan.
‘Our goal is to destabilize the country without risking our presence and influence there, and at the same time have a legitimate basis to repeal the Torrijos-Carter Treaties. Our policy must be developed along the following lines: a campaign of covert actions to destabilize Panama, accusing the Defense Forces of Panama, particularly General Noriega, of drug trafficking … and of being linked to the services of Cuban and United States intelligence (Secret-Sensitive Memorandum of the National Security Council, April 8, 1986) ‘.
A confession of guilt, relief of evidence.
The US opposed the French Channel under President Hayes (1880). He opposed the Canal that Nicaragua was negotiating with Japan, for which he sparked a revolt in 1909 that overthrew President José Santos Zelaya. He occupied Nicaragua for more than three decades and left the Somoza dynasty as a legacy.
From the CSN and the interview with General Noriega, we draw the following conclusions: (1) The United States hampered Japan’s aid to Panama; (2) the US held back the rise of Japan as a rival at that time; (3) The US boycotted the Tripartite Commission to hinder it until more favorable circumstances arose; (4) The US blackmailed Japan into expelling it from Panama: its approach to the Canal was “incompatible” with the Washington-Tokyo security agreements; (5) The US intervened in the sovereign affairs of Panama, preventing it from freely developing its international relations.
The aforementioned interventions pale in comparison to those committed during the invasion, when Panama was used as a laboratory rat to experiment with advanced technologies that later served to massacre peoples of the Middle East.
The document ‘Secret-Sensitive’ recognizes that the FDP intended not to create a new Canal but to extend the life of the current one. Otherwise, the FDP considered that the construction of a new road “should guarantee the participation of Japan, Western Europe and Latin America to prevent the United States from directly controlling the new Canal.”
According to the CSN, in 1986 ‘Japan was the fundamental economic challenge and could become the world’s leading industrial power. If, in addition, it controls a new Canal in America, it could eventually exert decisive economic influence in the Western Hemisphere, expelling the United States from its natural area of influence. ‘
After the invasion, Japan, which had established Panama as the center of its expansion in Latin America, withdrew its deposits from the International Financial Center and reduced its diplomatic presence and political influence in the region. Suspicious murders, kidnappings, accidents, and terrorist attacks on Japanese officials and businessmen took place in Panama, El Salvador, and other Central American countries.
The same elite that dominated Panama since 1903, with the brief hiatus of Torrijismo, was reinstated in 1989 to continue US domination, just as they did in Nicaragua in 1909.
In the twentieth century, at least six Panamanians of the highest profile were eliminated by the US to maintain its canal monopoly:
(1) Major General Victoriano Lorenzo, undefeated military man and the first guerrilla of the twentieth century, shot by an illegal Council of War on May 15, 1903 for not complying with the Wisconsin Peace Treaty, indispensable to the construction of the Canal;
(2) General Esteban Huertas, head of the First National Army, stripped of positions and honors and retired after the US ambassador ordered the dismantling of the armed corps in November 1904, after accusing him of trying to overthrow the Conservative President Manuel Amador Guerrero;
(3) President Arnulfo Arias, ousted in 1941 for eliminating the “right of intervention” of the US in the new Constitution, defending the neutrality of the Canal and rejecting a military alliance with the US;
(4) President José Antonio Remón Cantera, assassinated by US agents on January 2, 1955 for demanding revisions to the 1903 Treaty;
(5) the Head of Government and General Omar Torrijos, assassinated on July 31, 1981, for refusing to cut his ties with Japan and to abrogate or renegotiate the Canal Treaties;
(6) the Head of Government and General Manuel A. Noriega, on December 20, 1989, for refusing to cut his ties with Japan, to renegotiate the Canal Treaties, to restore the School of the Americas and to bow to the interests of US security (See: Julio Yao, The Canal Monopoly and Invasion, in press).
My friend Eduardo Galeano summed it up laconically: “Noriega’s only sin was being unfaithful to the CIA.”
Julio Yao is an INTERNATIONAL ANALYST, FOREIGN POLICY ASSESSOR AND WRITER.